Your marketing efforts are humming along nicely, you’re feeling good about your messaging and approach, and then it happens: You see a competitor tackle a topic you’ve thought about but haven’t really dug into yet — and they crush it. Or maybe your competitor has produced a clever, effective video that you’re pretty sure is about to go viral in your niche. So now what?
It can be tempting to ignore it, but that’s just not useful. I believe in being generous with praise for competitors, in public as well as in private, and that includes freely sharing my competitors’ content on my social channels. Real thought leaders don’t spend their time cutting down other people in their industry — they work to build everyone up. They acknowledge and affirm quality work and ideas. This mindset helps the industry becomes stronger and more diverse, which also benefits your own firm in the long run.
I asked three smart marketers about what they do about competitor content. Here are their thoughts.
Great content inspires customers, but it can give you some good ideas too. “Working for a niche industry, we have a few strong competitors,” says Crystal Ignatowski, marketing content developer at Surety Solutions. When a competitor does something amazing, such as publishing a great piece of content or answering unique questions, she looks for holes in the piece and tries to create something that fills the holes. Other options include developing something that’s more user-friendly than the original.
There’s no reason to share competing content that’s poor or mediocre. But if it’s good, there can be value in sharing it — as long as you do it carefully.
“When it comes to sharing we are somewhat in the middle,” Ignatowski says. “We don’t over-share competitor content, but we don’t avoid sharing.” She says that in the long run, sharing competitor content can boost customer loyalty by showing that her company is up-to-date in the industry and is dedicated to serving customer needs over “getting ahead.” She avoids sharing content related to competitors’ products, focusing instead on content that looks at industry issues.
Put Your Customers First
You can’t cover everything, and copying doesn’t do you any good. If someone else invests the effort to do a survey, for example, don’t just rush out and do your own to be “even.” Instead, leverage their effort to build up your own value proposition.
“The goal, even if you are helping a competitor, is to deliver quality content to your primary audience,” says Eric Quanstrom, chief marketing officer at Cience. “Ironically, people will trust you more the less bias you appear to have.” In addition, he says he’s never seen a deal lost because a company referred to someone else’s content.
Take a Stand
One of the perks of maintaining a reputation as a positive, supportive person in your industry is you are free to chime in with your own nuanced perspective on other people’s published ideas. You can even strongly disagree, as long as you can do it without contempt or rancor.
“Your piece can build off of your competitor’s content, or it can share the opposite viewpoint and contradict your competitor’s piece in a respectful way,” says Kierston Anderson, marketing strategist at Brolik, a digital marketing agency. As a marketer, your goal should be to create content that is better, more thorough and more useful to your audience, Anderson says, and adding your take can help reinforce your expertise.